First three weeks of research
So another year begins at university, the third year is all about working towards the Final Major project, this is usually some form of game or interaction and is taken from nothing but things we are interested in and researched into new ideas and concepts. I've been looking forward to this year for quite some time, this is the year where we get to create a fully functioning game, not a prototype or vertical slice as in previous years. Semester one being dedicated to research and working on a game project proposal and the second semester is building the game in it's entirety. Last year I worked on the games Dare (My own game) and Star beasts, I used Dare to demonstrate a mechanics based game with a concept for a multiplayer and unique features for a new type of dungeon crawler and Star beasts was the first time I was able to develop as a team leader and as a 3D artist working with animation and texturing as well as custom lighting systems and baked occlusion in the unity engine.This was great and helped me realize what I wanted to work on, I very much enjoyed working with 3D visuals and I spent much of the summer creating new visual art styles and working with new software, I worked with Substance software and I'm looking to add mudbox sculpting to my software skill set. However this is going to have to take a figurative backseat for semester one while I work on research and designing a game.
Along side the FMP work I am studying business in the creative industry as well as mathematics and technical mechanics systems under James. The business is less than interesting however I am genuinely interested in business and it's related fields, I believe it may be related to the presentation method that sours my interest. While the mechanics I am very much interested I am let down by my own understanding of mathematics - something to work on in the future.
My start point with research took the form of Values, Short story cycles and Winning/Losing, then later, Legacy after looking into life cycles. I chose these because I thought they'd make for an interesting basis for a game. I really liked the concept of how we assign values to things, why we do this and why does this change over time, there is abundant amounts of resources to research this subject and bridges a gap between philosophy and psychology, the second was short stories cycles and how together they make a grand narrative, something not used before in games, I was really interested in this and was disappointing to find that in contrast with Values, very little research or study's exist on the subject making it difficult to break down without bias or a basis to work from. Winning and losing initially took the form of a moral related argument, what is right and does this influence how we feel about winning or losing however as I'm already researching a morals based subject I wanted something different. I took it in the direction of what makes for an environment that allows us to win or lose and thus I looked into competitive environments, this is very interesting subject and something that I think could make for an interesting project. Finally I worked on Legacy, this is a subject that I almost certainly will not pursue but I wanted something a little different. The idea of what we leave behind when we die and how over time what really matters in terms of legacy. The research and presentation notes are here ~
These are the things I’m looking at
Short story cycles
I’ve been looking at narrative structures and how they are used to tell stories, and one that really interested me is one used infrequently and that’s the use of short stories to tell greater narratives. There are many different forms of narrative and I’m sure those that study narrative know far more that I, from linear to non-linear, streams of conciseness to parallel narrated. But the structure I’m really interested in is the self-inclusion of short story cycles; no one really knows who invented the cycle genre or in fact much about this then undefined storytelling, however two ladies Maggie Dunn and Ann Morris in 1995 researched the subject of smaller stories combining to tell an overarching story and they outlined several principles in The composite novel. The stories all utilise a pattern of some kind. Usually, a geographical location or a central protagonist, a collective protagonist, perhaps a family line or group. A nice example of this is actually Jojo’s bizarre adventures; this tells of a timeless battle across multiple generations of the same family each a different story with different characters but a collective protagonist and role. Other methods include a pattern of coherence and a focus on story telling itself. For example, A good scent from a strange mountain is a collection of short stories by Robert Olen Butler narrating stories of immigrating families from Vietnam to the United States.
However Short story cycles have almost never been used in games as far as I’m aware and I think it’d be great to try and bring a new form of narrative design to games. Attempting to break away from the hero’s journey and linear narrative would be an interesting step forward for narrative work within games. On a similar subject, I find the concept of modelling a story based over a lifespan interesting. From beginning to a true end is possibly the most truthful way of telling a story. Short stories allow a short burst of expression and chained together could create something quite amazing. Stephen King wrote a story cycle called Hearts in Atlantis essentially about how the baby boomer Generation never lived up to their ideals and promises , quite an obscure, subtle topic that short style cycles illustrate by using patterns and similarities over the stories.
Things I like about this idea: I like the possibility of creating new types of story through narrative structure
Things I dislike: Short stories could be difficult to get right, possibly a lot of work for a final project?
What interests me about winning and losing?
One of my starting points is winning and losing, what I was primarily interested is the connotations that winning and losing have, I think we usually attribute success with winning and failure with loosing. I think we deal with winning and losing on a daily basis, be that running out of milk or just this once, cooking a pizza without cremating it; josh.
I read an interesting post written by a DR. Kenneth Barish about children and how winning and losing and how important winning and losing actually is. It is almost essential to establishing a basis for emotions in and feelings like pride, and euphoria, as well as the feeling of failure and shame; very emotive elements towards driving us to success. This leads us to think that perhaps wanting to win over failing is a more deeply ingrained feeling that getting a little competitive when you play a heated game of monopoly.
This led me into the direction of what makes for a competitive environment. Most of the research is based around board games and video games. The elements that make up competitive games are vast and require a great deal of balancing. I’ve attempted to discern a few. Naturally the game needs more than one player or the player to verse a force of some kind, perhaps the game itself. Usually there’s a skill element and many games make use of a luck based mechanic. These can be subtly combined to create a competitive nature that can’t be fully predicted and thus requires experience and more skill to close the gap. Let us take Fortnite for an example everybody’s favourite game. If we take all situational advantages out of the equation, the game comes down to two elements, luck and skill, luck comes in the form of item loot and gun bloom (Bloom being the RNG chance of bullets missing when fired in succession) and the skill being accuracy and building capability. However we could take a game like Chess that’s all about strategy, calculated moves under pressure with no luck in the equation at all and we have a very different competitive game. All we have is in common is players working against each other to try and come out on top, in almost all cases; one comes away a winner and one a loser.
I read a good Gameasutra article about Super Mario 3D world adding a competitive element into co-operative by adding a shiny crown that only one of up to 4 players can win. To make the game more enjoyable for players, not only are they working together but there’s a small rivalry that adds a new dimension to the game that works towards bridging the skill gap between good and bad players. There are many other elements that make up competitive environments from learning curves to metagame changes but I just wanted to make an example of what facilitates a win and a loss.
things I like about winning and losing: Could make for an exciting and fun game that it suited to multiple players
Things I dislike: Competitive elements don’t appeal to everyone and the balancing of the game would have to be very careful to make a fair experience.
Originating from life cycles I ended up at Legacy and what we leave behind. There’s a train of thought that what we do is so insignificant that it doesn’t matter what we do and what we leave behind because in the end it’ll be lost anyway.
It’s interesting because eventually everything you did, everyone you met and everything you worked for will eventually fade, and as depressing as this is, it’s almost making room for new things, new people and new stories.
This time base erosion is exciting because in a 10,000 years who knows what will be taking place here? Will it even be humans occupying the earth, who knows? But although as a species, it’s not difficult to liken us to parasites on this earth; our legacies are still beautiful and place our mark in history.
Things I like about Legacy: the ending and beginning of new things is a difficult and beautiful concept to work with
Things I dislike about Legacy: How do you not make a depressing game with this?
Value is an interesting concept, we assign value to everything we encounter, objects, people, beliefs and behaviors, and I’m primarily talking about ethics based value. There are actually many different forms of value, ethical value associated with people and more conventional value assignment but there are other forms. Social imagery value is relating to group or culture based laws and rules, for example, a large business or religion. The Theory of value can refer to economic value, similar to social value but primarily denoting to materialistic interest, there are other forms of interest however these are less relevant to my interests.
Value is interesting, we usually have two forms of ethical value, instrumental and intrinsic, and these are both important but for different reasons ironically instrumental value is the liking of something because it affords you something else; for example, I really like coffee, which means I also like kettles, because a kettle is a means to make coffee. While intrinsic value refers to directly liking something, I like this painting or watch because it brings me instant happiness. You like it for what it is; the two can sometimes be difficult to differentiate. However these categories aren’t mutually exclusive as a mix of both can also cause us to put value into something.
Value as defined by this guy Plato, the Greek philosopher in his dialogue Protagoras. He believed value is based on pleasure verses pain, two of the most basic human traits, simplified this became defined as pleasure being intrinsically good and pain as intrinsically bad. Naturally this is only one defining method that we use to assign value however one of the key issues with defining value is subjectivity. One man’s trash is another’s treasure.
In fact in a paper on the subject of values; Barry Stroud a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley wrote that the philosophical study of value is difficult due to the fact that evaluation on the subject usually leads to subjectivism which as he puts it, “obliterates the very phenomenon we attempt to understand”
Thus this leads us to an understanding that ethical value is hard to define and even harder to quantify. Ending with a quote from Milton Rokeach a Polish-American psychologist who holds the believe that value is “an intervening variable that shows the promise of being able to unify the apparent diverse interests of all the sciences concerned with human behavior”
Things I like: A deep topic that could reach a lot of people, something that everyone can relate to
Things I dislike: Trying to avoid the generic and could make for a boring game.
These subjects interest me and I have no ideas for games yet, I'd like to work with short stories as a narrative medium however I do not wish to constrain the game idea based on a narrative decision and after a discussion with Adam I will be taking Value as my primary theme.
Where I will look now: The various interpretations of value from artists perspective, connotations of value and how this can be visualized.